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Sevapanthi or Sevapanthi or Addanshahi is a great traditional Sikh orders, a sect of philantrophist was started by Bhai Kanhaiya, after searching for a spiritual guide amongst Hindus and Muslims, he became a Sikh of the Ninth Sikh Guru. Guru Tegh Bahadur instructed Kanhaiya to go out and serve humanity. Thus began the life time work of Bhai Kanhaiya, ‘Seva’, self-abnegating service to all living things.

Sevapanthi is a conjunctive of two words; Seva which can be translated as selfless service and panthi. Panth literally means a ‘widened road’ and in this context means ‘path of’. Therefore, this term can be defined as those who take the path of selfless service.

The History

Bhai Kanhaiya was a Sikh of Guru Tegh Bahadur. He was born in a Dhamman Khatri family of Sodhara near Wazirabad in Sialkot district (now in Pakistan) and his father Nathu Ram was a wealthy trader and contractor for the Nawab’s Army.

After Bhai Sahib's father passed away, Bhai Kanhaiya Ji took over the family business. While trading one day he came across a devotee of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji called Bhai Nanua Ji. Bhai Nanua was a loving Sikh who woke up early at Amritvela to recite Gurbani. One morning Bhai Kanhaiya sat with Nanua Ji and was captivated with the Gurbani Shabads composed by Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. Bhai Nanua Ji finally sent Bhai Kanhaiya to the Ninth Guru.

Guru Tegh Bahadur chose Bhai Kanhaiya Ji to take of his stables and his horses, Bhai Kanhaiya Ji served with devotion, day and night. Without him knowing Guru Ji used to check on him. After about a year, Guru Ji, being pleased with hi s service, came to stables. He had the guards shut the doors to provide privacy, and blessed Bhai Ji with the Divine Naam, and invested him with the seli and topi. Bhai Kanhaiya established a Dharamsala (Rest house and temple) in the Northwest frontier in the Attock district of Punjab on a hilly track near the village of Kehva. The Dharamsala was situated on the Grand Trunk Road between Lahore and Peshawar. There, Bhai Kanhaiya served all, indiscriminately. He preached Gurbani to Muslims and Hindus, alike and taught them to respect one another as brothers, as they were in the eyes of the one Nirankar, Vaheguru. In time Guru Tegh Bahadur attained glorious martyrdom and his son Guru Gobind Singh came to occupy Guru Nanak’s spiritual seat.

On Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom, Bhai Kanhaiya was greatly saddened. He resolved to see his great successor. The early years of Guru Gobind Singh were to be the preparation for the oncoming wars with the caste-bound Hindu Rajas and the bigoted power of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. He remained in Guru Gobind Singh Ji's service and was with him at the siege of Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh ordered all his able-bodied Sikhs to wear weapons and learn the arts of war. Bhai Kanhaiya also obeyed the Guru's instructions and put on a sword but claimed his sword being a symbol of his Guru was for the use of his enemy. Hearing this, the Guru exempted Bhai Kanhaiya and his followers from military duty and told him to carry on performing the duty allotted him by his reverend Guru Tegh Bahadur, of serving all living beings.

In a latter battle in Anandpur, Bhai Kanhaiya served water indiscriminately to friend and foe alike. For this act, some angry Sikh warriors, the Nihangs, accusing him of treason, brought him before Guru Gobind Singh Ji. When Guru Ji asked Bhai Kanhaiya, why he was helped the wounded enemy. Bhai Ji replied that he could not distinguish between friend and foe, as he could only see the “Guru’s face and the one true Guru Vaheguru in all”. The Guru was very pleased, and not only did he order Bhai Kanhaiya to continue, but also gave him his own medicinal ointment as a gift to apply to the wounds of the wounded soldiers. He then blessed him with a boon, saying that Bhai Kanhaiya will start an order of selfless humanitarian Sikhs, who will serve all mankind, indiscriminately. Noori Shah was amongst those Afghan soldiers to whom Bhai Kanhaiya had served water and attended. He went onto become a great disciple of Bhai Kanhaiya setting up a Dharamsala of his own.

From his personal service (seva) or more probably from Seva Ram, his first disciple, his followers are called Seva-Panthis, but in Amritsar they are known as Addanshahis, after Bhai Addan Shah, the chief disciple of Bhai Seva Ram, who succeeded Bhai Seva Ram Ji. He was a rich banker who devoted his wealth and leisure to the propagation of their doctrines'. The charity of Sevapanthis to travelers and persons in distress is proverbial. Bhai Kanhaiya is said to have been commissioned by Guru Gobind Singh Ji to preach Sikhism in the south-west and he founded his first dharamsala in the Thal or steppe of the Sind Sagar Doab. His followers are mainly Khatris and Aroras of that tract and the disciples are called Nanak-Shahis, who make ropes for a livelihood, refusing all alms and oblations.

Bhai Kanhaiya
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